(AUSTIN) - Rep. Tom Craddick (Midland) filed House Bill 80, the Alex Brown Memorial Act, to address an important traffic safety issue by implementing a statewide ban on texting while driving.
"38 Texas cities, along with 44 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, ban text messaging for all drivers. And yet, as a whole, the State of Texas does not, consequently creating a patchwork of local ordinances that confuses drivers," Craddick said. "During this upcoming 84th legislative session, it is time that we changed that and give our Texas drivers safer roads to travel on and prevent the loss of life -- that is why I filed HB 80 today."
The bill is named in honor of Alex Brown. Alex lost her life to texting while driving. Her parents, Jeanne and Johnny Mac Brown lost Alex in a single car accident as she drove to school during her senior year in high school. The family has since formed the Remembering Alex Brown (RAB) foundation to raise awareness and support a Texas law.
"Like the Browns, families who have lost a loved one know all too well the dangers of texting while driving," Craddick said. "Not only can crashes cost a life, but texting crashes cost all Texas taxpayers an estimated $1.3 billion in medical care, emergency services, vehicle repairs, insurance premiums and lost productivity and wages."
According to Texas Department of Transportation, in 2013, nearly one in five crashes in Texas involved driver distraction. There were 95,267 traffic crashes in Texas that involved distracted driving. These crashes resulted in 19,994 serious injuries and 507 deaths.
"Texans who text while driving increase their crash risk by at least eight times. That is comparable to driving while intoxicated. Like driving drunk, texting while driving is a dangerous habit that is not just risking the driver's life, it is risking the lives of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike," Craddick said. "Writing a text, updating Facebook or checking your email messages is not worth injuring yourself or someone else."
While there is not a statewide ban for all drivers, Texas has several laws in place that regulate texting while driving. State law bans texting while driving for drivers under 18; school bus drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving with children on the bus; and drivers cannot use a cell phone or other handheld wireless device in an active school zone where signs are present.
Approximately 38 Texas cities have adopted a local ordinance banning texting while driving, along with a handful that ban any type of hand held cell phone use. Craddick previously introduced similar legislation to enact a statewide ban on texting while driving during the legislative sessions in 2011 and 2013.
"The Texas Legislature has a responsibility to give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to make our roadways safer," Craddick concluded. "If passed next session, this law will provide a uniform statewide approach to curb this unsafe practice and will go a long way in helping educate drivers on the dangers posed by texting while driving and save lives."